The Plains tribes varied widely in culture, customs, intelligence, and personality. Because the Sioux were the biggest and therefore the most powerful tribe and because from early in the Civil War on to the death of Crazy Horse they raised so much hell that they were constantly in the headlines, they are established in our accumulation of readymade ideas as the outstanding Indians of the West. The mountain men did not think so; in their empirical respect the Crows, the Cheyennes, and the Arapahos outranked the Sioux. A modern student knows that he cannot avoid using a white man’s measuring rod but he tends to agree with the mountain men at least in regard to the Crows and the Cheyennes.
The Crows fought the United States Army only once and that was a small skirmish; they made little trouble for the white man and next to the Nez Perces and Flatheads were the best friends of trappers. On the other hand, they fought all Indians. They never had an ally and made only one truce: with the Sioux, for a single year. They thought of the Sioux as their principal enemies and when Sublette & Campbell brought the Oglalas to the Platte in 1834 and so upset the balance of power in the mountains forever, a pressure began which by about 1860 forced the Crows back as far as Powder River. They could not hold against the sheer weight of numbers but even this half conquest of Absaroka cost the Sioux dear, since the Crows were forever raiding them. More spectacular is the fact that they put a limit to the southward expansion of the Blackfeet, probably getting more Blackfoot scalps than any other tribe contrived to. But they would take on anyone and they raided everywhere. Primarily for horses. In envy and humility their neighbors paid them the supreme tribute: they said that the Crows were the best horse-thieves. The number of Comanche horses in their herds supported the judgment;